previous next
4. As soon as the boy has learned to read and [p. 63] write without difficulty, it is the turn for the teacher1 of literature. My words apply equally to Greek and Latin masters, though I prefer that a start should be made with a Greek: [2] in either case the method is the same. This profession may be most briefly considered under two heads, the art of speaking correctly and the interpretation of the poets; but there is more beneath the surface than meets the eye. [3] For the art of writing is combined with that of speaking, and correct reading precedes interpretation, while in each of these cases criticism has its work to perform. The old school of teachers indeed carried their criticism so far that they were not content with obelising lines or rejecting books whose titles they regarded as spurious, as though they were expelling a supposititious child from the family circle, but also drew up a canon of authors, from which some were omitted altogether. [4] Nor is it sufficient to have read the poets only; every kind of writer must be carefully studied, not merely for the subject matter, but for the vocabulary; for words often acquire authority from their use by a particular author. Nor can such training be regarded as complete if it stop short of music, for the teacher of literature has to speak of metre and rhythm: nor again if he be ignorant of astronomy, can he understand the poets; for they, to mention no further points, frequently give their indications of time by reference to the rising and setting of the stars. Ignorance of philosophy is an equal drawback, since there are numerous passages in almost every poem based on the most intricate questions of natural philosophy, while among the Greeks we have Empedocles and among our own poets Varro and Lucretius, all of [p. 65] whom have expounded their philosophies in verse. [5] No small powers of eloquence also are required to enable the teacher to speak appropriately and fluently on the various points which have just been mentioned. For this reason those who criticise the art of teaching literature as trivial and lacking in substance put themselves out of court. Unless the foundations of oratory are well and truly laid by the teaching of literature, the superstructure will collapse. The study of literature is a necessity for boys and the delight of old age, the sweet companion of our privacy and the sole branch of study which has more solid substance than display.

[6] The elementary stages of the teaching of literature must not therefore be despised as trivial. It is of course an easy task to point out the difference between vowels and consonants, and to subdivide the latter into semivowels and mutes. But as the pupil gradually approaches the inner shrine of the sacred place, he will come to realise the intricacy of the subject, an intricacy calculated not merely to sharpen the wits of a boy, but to exercise even the most profound knowledge and erudition. [7] It is not every ear that can appreciate the correct sound of the different letters. It is fully as hard as to distinguish the different notes in music. But all teachers of literature will condescend to such minutiae: they will discuss for instance whether certain necessary letters are absent from the alphabet, not indeed when we are writing Greek words (for then we borrow two letters2 from them), but in the case of genuine Latin words: [8] for example in words such as seruus and uulgus we feel the lack of the Aeolic digamma; there is also a sound intermediate between [p. 67] u and i, for we do not pronounce optimum as we do opimum, while in here the sound is neither exactly e or i. [9] Again there is the question whether certain letters are not superfluous, not to mention the mark of the aspirate, to which, if it is required at all, there should be a corresponding symbol to indicate the opposite: for instance k, which is also used as an abbreviation for certain nouns, and q, which, though slanted slightly more by us, resembles both in sound and shape the Greek koppa, now used by the Greeks solely as a numerical sign3: there is also x, the last letter of our own alphabet, which we could dispense with as easily as with psi. [10] Again the teacher of literature will have to determine whether certain vowels have not been consonantalised. For instance iam and etiam are both spelt with an i, uos and tuos both with a u. Vowels, however, when joined as vowels, either make one long vowel (compare the obsolete method of indicating a long vowel by doubling it as the equivalent of the circumflex), or a diphthong, though some hold that even three vowels can form a single syllable; this however is only possible if one or more assume the role of consonants. [11] He will also inquire why it is that there are two vowels which may be repeated, while a consonant can only be followed and modified by a different consonant.4 But i can follow i (for coniicit is derived from iacit5): so too does u, witness the modern spelling of seruus and uulgus. He should also know that Cicero preferred to write aiio and Maaiiam with a double i; in that case one [p. 69] of them is consonantalised. [12] A boy therefore must learn both the peculiarities and the common characteristics of letters and must know how they are related to each other. Nor must he be surprised that scabillum is formed from scamnus or that a double-edged axe should be called bipennis from pinnus, “sharp”: for I would not have him fall into the same error as those who, supposing this word to be derived from his and pennae, think that it is a metaphor from the wings of birds.

[13] He must not be content with knowing only those changes introduced by conjugation and prefixes, such as secat secuit, cadit excidit, caedit excīdit, calcat exculcat, to which might be added lotus from lauare and again inlotus with a thousand others. He must learn as well the changes that time has brought about even in nominatives. For just as names like Valesius and Fusius have become Valerius and Furius, so arbos, labos, vapos and even clamos and lases6 were the original forms. [14] And this same letter s, which has disappeared from these words, has itself in some cases taken the place of another letter. For our ancestors used to say mertare and pultare.7 They also said fordeum and faedi, using f instead of the aspirate as being a kindred letter. For the Greeks unlike us aspirate f like their own phi, as Cicero bears witness in the pro Fundanio, where he laughs at a witness who is unable to pronounce the first letter of that name. [15] In some cases again we have substituted b for other letters, as with Burrus, Bruges, and Belena.8 The same letter too has turned duellum into bellum, and as a result some have ventured to call the Duelii Belii. [16] What of stlocus and stlites? What of the connexion between t and d, a connexion [p. 71] which makes it less surprising that on some of the older buildings of Rome and certain famous temples we should find the names Alexanter and Cassantra? What again of the interchange of o and u, of which examples may be found in Hecoba, notrix, Culcides and Pulixena, or to take purely Latin words dederont and probaueront? So too Odysseus, which the Aeolian dialect turned into Ulysseus, has been transformed by us into Ulixes. [17] Similarly e in certain cases held the place that is now occupied by i, as in Menerua, leber, magester, and Dioue victore in place of Dioui victori. It is sufficient for me to give a mere indication as regards these points, for I am not teaching, but merely advising those who have got to teach. The next subject to which attention must be given is that of syllables, of which I will speak briefly, when I come to deal with orthography.

Following this the teacher concerned will note the number and nature of the parts of speech, although there is some dispute as to their number. [18] Earlier writers, among them Aristotle himself and Theodectes, hold that there are but three, verbs, nouns and convictions. Their view was that the force of language resided in the verbs, and the matter in the nouns (for the one is what we speak, the other that which we speak about), while the duty of the convinctions was to provide a link between the nouns and the verbs. I know that conjunction is the term in general use. But conviction seems to me to be the more accurate translation of the Greek . [19] Gradually the number was increased by the philosophers, more especially by the Stoics: articles were first added to the convinctions, then prepositions: to nouns appellations were [p. 73] added, then the pronoun and finally the participle, which holds a middle position between the verb and the noun. To the verb itself was added the adverb. Our own language dispenses with the articles, which are therefore distributed among the other parts of speech. [20] But interjections must be added to those already mentioned. Others however follow good authority in asserting that there are eight parts of speech. Among these I may mention Aristarchus and in our own day Palaemon, who classified the vocable or appellation as a species of the genus noun. Those on the other hand who distinguish between the noun and the vocable, make nine parts of speech. But yet again there are some who differentiate between the vocable and the appellation, saying that the vocable indicates concrete objects which can be seen and touched, such as a “house” or “bed,” while an appellation is something imperceptible either to sight or touch or to both, such as the “wind,” “heaven,” or “virtue.” They added also the asseveration, such as “alas” and the derivative9 such as fasciatim. But of these classifications I do not approve. [21] Whether we should translate προσηγορία by vocable or appellation, and whether it should be regarded as a species of noun, I leave to the decision of such as desire to express their opinion: it is a matter of no importance.

[22] Boys should begin by learning to decline nouns and conjugate verbs: otherwise they will never be able to understand the next subject of study. This admonition would be superfluous but for the fact that most teachers, misled by a desire to show rapid progress, begin with what should really come at the end: their passion for displaying their pupils' talents [p. 75] in connexion with the more imposing aspects of their work serves but to delay progress and their short cut to knowledge merely lengthens the journey. [23] And yet a teacher who has acquired sufficient knowledge himself and is ready to teach what he has learned—and such readiness is all too rare—will not be content with stating that nouns have three genders or with mentioning those which are common to two or all three together. [24] Nor again shall I be in a hurry to regard it as a proof of real diligence, if he points out that there are irregular nouns of the kind called epicene by the Greeks, in which one gender implies both, or which in spite of being feminine or neuter in form indicate males or females respectively, as for instance Muraena and Glycerium. [25] A really keen and intelligent teacher will inquire into the origin of names derived from physical characteristics, such as Rufus or Longus, whenever their meaning is obscure, as in the case of Sulla, Burrus, Galba, Plautus, Pansa, Scaurus and the like; of names derived from accidents of birth such as Agrippa, Opiter, Cordus and Postumus, and again of names given after birth such as Vopiscus. Then there are names such as Cotta, Scipio, Laenas or Seranus,10 which originated in various ways. [26] It will also be found that names are frequently derived from races, places and many other causes. Further there are obsolete slave-names such as Marcipor or Publipor11 derived from the names of their owners. The teacher must also inquire whether there is not room for a sixth [p. 77] case in Greek and a seventh in Latin. For when I say “wounded by a spear,” the case is not a true ablative in Latin nor a true dative in Greek. [27] Again if we turn to verbs, who is so ill-educated as not to be familiar with their various kinds and qualities, their different persons and numbers. Such subjects belong to the elementary school and the rudiments of knowledge. Some, however, will find points undetermined by inflexion somewhat perplexing. For there are certain participles, about which there may be doubts as to whether they are really nouns or verbs, since their meaning varies with their use, as for example lectum and sapiens, [28] while there are other verbs which resemble nouns, such as fraudator and nutritor.12 Again itur in antiquam silvam13 is a peculiar usage. For there is no subject to serve as a starting point: fletur is a similar example. The passive may be used in different ways as for instance in

panditur interea domus omnipotentis Olympi

Aen. x. 1
Meanwhile the house of almighty Olympus is opened.
and in

totis usque adeo turbatur agris.

Ecl. i. 11
There is such confusion in all the fields.
Yet a third usage is found in urbs habitatur, whence we get phrases such as campus curritur and mare navigatur. [29] Pransus and potus14 have a meaning which does not correspond to their form. And what of those verbs which are only partially conjugated? Some (as for instance fero) even suffer an entire change in the perfect. Others are used only in the third [p. 79] person, such as licet and piget, while some resemble nouns tending to acquire an adverbial meaning; for we say dictu and factu15 as we say noctu and diu, since these words are participial though quite different from dicto and facto.

1 grammaticus is the teacher of literature and languages; at times it is necessary to restrict its meaning to “grammar.”

2 Y and Z.

3 K = Kaeso, Kalendae, 'Karthago, Kaput, Kalumnia, etc. The q-sound can be expressed by c. Koppa (ZZZ) as a numeral = 90.

4 The two vowels are i and u. A consonant cannot be duplicated within one syllable.

5 The derivation is mentioned to show that two i's, not one, are found in the second syllable of coniicit.

6 i.e. of lares.

7 For mersare and pulsare.

8 i.e. Pyrrus, Phryges, Helena.

9 Generally interpreted collective: but see Colson, Class. Quart. x. l, p. 17; fasciatim = in bundles (from fascis).

10 Sulla =? spindleshanks (surula). Burrus = red. Galba = caterpillar. Plautus = flat-footed. Pansa = splay-footed. Scaurus = with swollen ankles. Agrippa = born feet foremost. Opiter = one whose father died while his grandfather still lived. Cordus = late-born. Postumus = last-born, or born after the father's death. Vopiscus = a twin born alive after the premature birth and death of the other. Scipio = staff. Laenas from laena (cloak). Seranus = the sower. Cotta uncertain.

11 i.e. Marcipuer, Publipuer.

12 lectum may be ace. of lectus, “bed,” or supine or past part. pass. of legerc, “to read”; sapiens may be pres. part. of sapere, “to know,” or an adj. = “wise”; fraudator and nutritor are 2nd and 3rd pers. sing. fut. imper. pass. of fraudo and nutrio.

13 Aen. vi. 179: “They go into the ancient wood.”

14 “Having dined,” “having drunk.” Active in sense, passive in form.

15 Supines.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Introduction (Harold Edgeworth Butler, 1920)
load focus Latin (Harold Edgeworth Butler, 1920)
hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: